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Asbestos risk after fire keeps Gloucestershire residents indoors

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Residents of Cinderford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, have been instructed to avoid sitting in their gardens, hang washing or opening windows and doors during an asbestos clean-up following a blaze. The advice came after asbestos was identified in a building which had been burnt out. The blaze occurred last week.

Environmental health chief suspected that several cement roof tiles from the building housed deadly asbestos, asking residents to take precautions until the clean-up operation was completed. Although the risk of lung damage was low, the local Forest of Dean District Council issued advice from Public Health England advising the public on the steps to take after the blaze.

Take care not to clean up potential asbestos debris

The Public Health England advice on precautionary steps to take instructs people to close all external doors and windows, not to put washing out on lines, not to engage in outdoor activity unless necessary, not to enter the sites of such blazes or touch debris from them and not to use vacuum cleaners to clear debris as this may spread affected fibres into the air.

Dampening down debris

Tile debris should also be dampened down and lifted into double bin bags with gloves. Residents should then contact the council to remove it. The owner of the building was contacted and instructed to make the building safe. The water and foam used to get the blaze under control is likely to have stopped the fibres becoming airborne. The fibres are normally only harmful when breathed in over an extended time-frame.

Asbestos is unlikely to cause medical problems when it is dismantled and disposed of in the correct manner. Problems are only likely to occur when it has been broken, damaged, sanded, cut or broken. In these cases, small fibres may be released, which can be incredibly harmful. Asbestos was used to construct buildings for many years due to its fire-retardant attributes. However, its dangers were discovered many years ago, after buildings up and down the country had been built with the material. Today, properties are built using asbestos substitutes.

Asbestos debris and its safe removal and disposal

We would always recommend utilising a licensed asbestos contractor to undertake all asbestos works. A licensed contractor will have suitably trained operatives, have the correct plans of works & risk assessments, correctly maintained equipment, have appropriate means of disposing of the material and most importantly they’ll be fully insured to work with asbestos. Your local council may be able to give you advice on the removal of asbestos cement debris or disposing of asbestos materials safely. If at a last resort you have to handle asbestos cement debris the following can be used as a guide:

  • Wear suitable PPE & RPE
  • Dampen the AC debris with spray.
  • Pick up larger pieces of debris. Put them in the asbestos waste bag.
  • For debris on rough surfaces, keep it damp and scoop or scrape it into the asbestos waste bag.
  • Clean contaminated surfaces with damp rags, then put these in the asbestos waste bag.
  • Press adhesive tape onto small dust deposits, then put the tape in the asbestos waste bag.
  • If necessary, repair the AC – see sheet a13.
  • Put used rags and other waste in the asbestos waste bag and tape it closed. Put the asbestos waste bag in a clear polythene bag and tape it closed.
  • Follow full decontamination procedures on completion.

At Acorn Analytical Services, we can assist you if you suspect your property is harbouring asbestos and you need to carry out an asbestos survey. We can also make you more asbestos compliant and are able to offer completely independent and impartial advice on adhering to asbestos regulations. Get in touch today to find out more.

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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